Tenwek Hospital, Kenya, Africa

Madison Chapman - Tenwek Hospital, Kenya, Africa



Resident, UT Health San Antonio
Tenwek Hospital, Kenya, Africa
January, 2024

Thank you so much for supporting me so I could participate in a medical mission elective for approximately one month at Tenwek Hospital. Tenwek Hospital was established in 1938 in the rural town of Bomet, Kenya northwest of Nairobi. The first missionary doctor was Dr. Ernie Steury who served without any backup for about 10 years. He was a true evangelistic doctor who put the importance of sharing the Gospel before medical care evidenced by the hospital slogan, “We treat. Jesus Heals.” 

I learned of Tenwek Hospital from mentors of mine that I met through CMDA. Randy (IM) and Marilyn (OB) Vanover have served at Tenwek for one month out of the year for many years, so I frequently heard stories of their time there. A hospital that integrated faith into employees’ daily routines seemed so idealistic compared to the secular hospitals that I learned to practice medicine in, and I often dreamed of working at Tenwek during the most trying days of my intern year. So, when the opportunity to do an elective came in my PGY-3 year, I was able to join the Vanovers in serving at Tenwek, where I would be joining their OB/GYN residency cohort. 

God had answered many prayers to align everything that needed to happen at my institution for me to go on this trip. He continued to show his faithfulness and power when arriving in Nairobi. I had checked two pieces of luggage, one of which was full of scraps of fabric to donate to Threads of Hope, a ministry that teaches women abandoned by their husbands how to sew. The customs officers had flagged this piece of luggage for inspection stating that we had to pay taxes on this fabric. After waiting some time, the customs official called us into the office and told me that he thought the fabric was worth $200 so we would have to pay about $120 in taxes. Randy started arguing with him stating that the fabric was worth no more than $50. After going back and forth for a while, the guy who was not budging on his stated price got up to look at the fabric again. Meanwhile, I prayed a simple prayer saying, “God. I know that you not only could bring the price down but that you could get us out of here for free.” The man then came back and simply said “Go.” So, I thanked God and quickly left with all our luggage. 

My time at Tenwek was wonderful. Faith was integrated in every part of the day. Every morning would start off with the OB team doing a devotional and then praying for the day. We would then split up and round on all of the patients before going to clinic or performing c-sections or hysterectomies during which we would always pause and pray over the patient. Although Tenwek is a very established mission hospital, the resources are still lacking compared to modern medicine by approximately 20 years. Due to this, the management of patients is sometimes different than what I am used to. For instance, the age of viability in the US is 23-24 weeks or about 500g. At Tenwek, the age of viability is closer to 30-32 weeks or about 1000g with premature babies more likely to face more morbidity and mortality compared to similar aged babies in the US. This obviously changes timing of deliveries. Given these differences, there were lots of learning and teaching opportunities for myself and the other residents as I learned how they managed common conditions while also teaching them how we manage them differently. At the end of the trip, I left with newfound rhythms of incorporating faith into my daily work routine and have an ongoing desire to participate in missions throughout my medical career.